Nothing gives you a sore back, neck ache and rounded shoulders like being sat at a desk all day staring at a computer screen. According to the NHS, many adults in the UK spend more than seven hours a day sitting or lying. Not only is this probably worsening your posture, but prolonged periods of sitting can also negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels.
Luckily, yoga has been proven to potentially help relieve some of these health issues as well as increase strength, flexibility and mental well-being.
So, it seems the solution is quite clear; putting just 20 minutes aside after a busy day at the office to practise yoga could help to calm the stresses of the day as well as combat those aches and pains.
Here are some of our favourite poses to help you unwind.
STANDING FORWARD BEND
This stretch is exactly what it sounds like: from a comfortable standing position, bend at the waist, letting your arms drop down towards your feet. You’ll feel it in your hamstrings, and you can add arms and shoulders to the stretch by grasping your hands behind your back and raising them over your head while bending forward. Remembering not to bounce in this stretch, bend until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings, and then hold for at least 30 seconds. This pose helps reverse blood flow to your upper body and arms, which can help your muscles recover and relax more quickly.
This pose can look and feel pretty awkward when you’re first getting into it, but there’s nothing better for opening up your neck, shoulders, and quadriceps. Camel pose can be tough if your shoulders and/or neck are super tight, but they’ll benefit from being eased into this position. What’s more, this pose stretches the entire front of your body once you’re able to get into its full expression. Traditionally, camel pose is thought to treat anxiety, improve posture, open all of your airways, and energise your whole body. Practicing this pose regularly will also begin to improve the flexibility of the front of your body, which is often neglected in favour of focusing on hamstring flexibility. Camel pose can relieve pressure on your back and hamstrings while stretching your upper body, so it’s perfect for sore shoulders, arms, back, and backs of the legs.
EXTENDED TRIANGLE POSE
Triangle pose isn’t too difficult, but it can be tough to work your hand all the way to the floor if you haven’t been working on your flexibility diligently. Remember that you can always rest your hand on your leg, and if you practise regularly you’ll find it sliding closer and closer to the floor each time. This pose allows you to get an amazing stretch in your legs without stressing your hamstrings as much as a forward bend might. If your hamstrings are especially sore and tight, this might be the pose for you. Because triangle pose opens your entire body, especially your hips and shoulders, it’s good for almost any muscle soreness. The twist of your spine and torso in this pose is also supposed to improve your digestion.
COBRA OR UPWARD FACING DOG POSE
This pose will relieve muscle soreness and tension in your back by sending extra blood flow there, and in your abdominal muscles, shoulders, and chest by stretching them across the front of your body. Think of these poses as mini backbends, placing relatively little pressure on your arms while still giving you the benefits of extending your abs and chest. These poses are traditionally thought to relax and strengthen your back, open your airways and stimulate digestion. Cobra pose feels great the day after your toughest ab workouts.
ALTERNATING CAT AND COW POSES
Yoga instructors often flow between these two poses at the beginning of a class to warm up the spine and neck. When you’ve got a sore back from hunching over your desk all day–get on the floor and do some cat/cow poses for instant relief. These moves increase blood flow to your back and can make you feel super relaxed, which can alleviate neck and shoulder tension. These poses are also supposed to ‘massage’ your organs, improving your digestion and stimulating blood flow. Cow pose also expands your chest and opens your airways, so take some deep, relaxing breaths. Cat pose helps to strengthen your spine and massage the muscles that support it, increasing blood flow and flexibility to reduce soreness and stiffness.
This is yoga’s most iconic resting pose for a reason. If you don’t do it regularly, you’ll be shocked at how wonderful it feels to lower your forehead to the mat and release your arms down along your sides. If you need a shoulder stretch, you can also extend your arms in front of you, pressing your hands into the mat as you would in downward facing dog. Child’s pose feels great any time you need to relax, but it’s particularly good for sore shoulders, back, and chest because it releases almost all of the muscles in your back and upper body. You’ll also find that any neck tension will be alleviated when your forehead rests against the floor. Remember to breathe deeply and steadily in this pose to get the most out of the relaxation and rejuvenation.
Let’s wrap it up
Exercising a little self-discipline to ensure you make time to practise these poses could seriously reap benefits for your physical and mental health. It might be difficult at first, but after a while you will see yourself become stronger, more flexible and more relaxed. Complimenting your exercise routine with a nutritious diet, rich in protein is also vital! A diet deficient in protein and B vitamins can result in feeling tired and fatigued. Adding a protein supplement to your diet is often a convenient and inexpensive way of ensuring you meet your protein intake.